Almost all of us must have tried maple syrup. From American style pancakes, to smoothies, it’s used in cocktails, ice cream, marinades – even poured on waffles and fried chicken in Splendid Kitchen, or with your bacon in Moose Coffee or your French toast in Sugar Junction.
But how much do you know about it, and it’s production? I must admit, as a child I thought it came from the leaves and it was only later on, I understood it to be the sticky sweet sap, tapped at a point in the spring when the ‘sap rises’.
The sap is collected in buckets and then boiled down to produce the thick rich syrup we see in the supermarkets and restaurants across the world.
Next week, 17 December is National Maple Syrup Day in Canada and the US, and ahead of the celebrations, André Pollender, an award-winning producer of maple syrup and maple vinegar in Canada visited the UK. His farm Cabane du PicBois produces around 225 gallons of maple syrup every year and still uses the traditional method of tapping each of the 1200 trees with a metal spile and collecting the maple sap in metal buckets. It takes around 40 litres of sap to make 1 litre of maple syrup.
Though I couldn’t meet him in person, I was able to quiz Andre about production, and his own favoured way to eat it.
Canada produces 71% of the world’s pure maple syrup, 91% of which is produced in Quebec and most of your syrup is produced in Quebec, is it a particular ‘hot spot’ for production? And does the place where it is made have an effect on the flavour?
I think we have the right climate and weather; the ‘terroir’ is also important and we have the right maple tree – red maple trees give less than 2% sugar so you could need 50-60 litres of sap for 1 litre of syrup, whereas the maple sugar tree that we grow is a higher percentage, 3-3.5%.
In Quebec we have the right trees and the right weather, so not only do I think Canadian maple syrup is the best, but the very best is from Quebec! We have the know-how that has been built up over many generations.
I understand there’s been a fall in production, is there a particular reason for this? And will it have a big impact on cost to the consumer?
With the Federation of Quebec Maple Syrup Producers, we have a reserve of millions of pounds worth of maple syrup, so we have enough stock if we do have a bad season to prevent both supply and prices being affected.
This year, the season started late, so we had to take some from the reserve to supply the market until this year’s harvest was ready.
There are so many maple syrup ‘flavour’ syrups about, what is the best labelling for us to ensure we’re getting the real deal, rather than sirop de poteau*?
I would love to say ‘always buy mine’ but I can’t supply the whole world! Check the label and make sure it says ‘pure’ and ‘from Quebec, Canada’ and you will have the real deal!
*Québécois sometimes refer to fake maple syrup as sirop de poteau (“pole syrup”), a joke referring to the syrup as having been made by tapping telephone poles.
And finally, what is your favourite way to enjoy maple?
I love to drizzle it on pancakes or ice cream, and you can use it in or on cakes!!
Think of how you enjoy using honey, and simply replace that with pure maple syrup. Upgrade your plate with maple syrup!
With thanks to Andre for taking time to answer my questions. If you fancy learning more about maple syrup, looking at recipes, or where to buy, We Love Maple is the website to visit.